‘Food must flow’ – UN grain deal chief
Amir Abdulla, the UN coordinator for the Black Sea grain initiative, has insisted that civilian cargo vessels should never be military targets. Moscow pulled out of the scheme, which was mediated by the UN and Türkiye in July, after a Ukrainian attack on the port of Sevastopol.
“Civilian cargo ships can never be a military target or held hostage. The food must flow,” the UN official tweeted on Monday.
On Sunday, the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul announced that UN, Turkish and Ukrainian officials had given the green light to 16 ships for navigation along the corridor for October 31. Russia was informed about the decision, it said.
According to maritime traffic data, at least two ships left the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa in the morning, reporting Istanbul as their destination.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday that it was suspending its participation in the arrangement after an aerial and sea drone attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol, which it attributed to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military used the corridor designated for passage of food transports during the attack, the ministry claimed. One of the drones may have been deployed from a civilian vessel previously hired to haul cargo under the scheme, it added.
Moscow has long complained about the implementation of the agreement, stating that grain shipped out of Ukraine was predominantly going to rich European nations rather than countries hit most by surging food prices.
It also blamed the UN for failing to secure relief from Western sanctions, which are hampering Russian exports of food and fertilizers. Moscow proposed donating some of the products to the needy for free. On Saturday, Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said the country was ready to send the world’s poorest nations up to 500,000 tons of grain within the next four months.
Before the deal was reached, Kiev and its foreign supporters accused the Russian government of putting people in poor nations at risk of hunger by allegedly blocking exports of grain via the Black Sea.
Moscow denied the claim and said civilian traffic was free to go, as far as Russia was concerned, and blamed sea mines deployed by Ukraine for putting ships at risk.
The terms of the deal agreed with Türkiye and the UN includes several security provisions, including inspections by experts of the JCC for the possible smuggling of weapons.